The 2015 residency at the Royal Albert Hall was in celebration of Eric Clapton's 70th birthday on 30 March 2015. The concerts also mark the fifty years since he first played the venue on 7 December 1964 with The Yardbirds.
Review by Andrew Dobson
I have been attending Eric's concerts since the "Beano" album with John Mayall. I have witnessed since that time the most extraordinary guitar playing from quite simply the best guitarist there has ever been such that each time I see him I think that his playing cannot be bettered. How wrong could I be because on 18 and 23 May 2015 I was simply blown away by him! A man of 70 years of age who according to the programme notes "struggles" a bit these days produced performances of such dazzling brilliance they beggared belief. I am not going to go through his set lists song by song but suffice to say that his solos on for example "Sherriff" and "Queen of Spades" were beyond description. His solo construction and structure, timing, phrasing and musicality not to mention his technique on the Fender truly set him apart from all other great guitarists.Also vocally (with the help of a great sound crew) he is better than ever.
He even does "less is more" better than anyone else. His beautiful playing on his sit down medley with that gorgeous technique he has was spellbinding.
He saved the very best for 23 May. He was like a man possessed and the RAH was mesmerised by him. I felt very emotional when he finally left the stage and I knew that would be the case. Will I ever see him again? Can he ever go into full retirement?
I feel very blessed that he has been such a constant presence in my life sustaining me through the highs and lows. I have always had his music to fall back on.
I cannot wait for the DVD of the shows to be released.
God bless you Eric!
Review by Ulf Johansson
I came from Sweden the same day to Heathrow for today's show. I attended the Cream concert November 14 1967 in Stockholm the day I became 19 years old. I've seen Eric in Sweden since then with Blind Faith June 1969, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends 1969, December and much more. This concert today was another great one. I realize I attended the first concert of these shows that Eric honoured BB King while changing the lyrics into "BB King .... BB King ..... BB King ...." from "You are my Queen and I'm your King" in "Little Queen of Spades".
Review by Biswajit Dasgupta
As we waited impatiently on the windswept pavements outside Royal Albert Hall, the May evening glowed in bright cool sunshine. Across the road the statue of Prince Albert glittered gold in the Kensington Palace lawn. We had reached 5.45, the gates of the Hall were open, but many, like us, were waiting, drinking in the beauty of the cool summer evening, while they waited for one of the greatest blues rock guitarist and musician in the world. For me, it had been a long wait since the day in December 2014 when I decided to come to London from far off Kolkata and asked my friend to get tickets. At last here I was. It was the 18th of May 2015. I was waiting my turn to listen to Eric Clapton at one of the best concert venues in the world, the Royal Albert Hall.
Clapton would be playing this evening as part of his 70th year birthday celebrations. Two days back was his 200th performance inside the famed portals since he first played at this celebrated classical orchestra house on 7th December 1964, as a member of Yardbirds for the BBC-2 TV’s Top Beat show. He returned four years later for Cream’s U.K. Farewell Concerts in November 1968 and then many times over, till today when I too would be listening.
I still remember the very first time I had heard Eric Clapton. I was about 11 years old and 461 Ocean Boulevard left an indelible mark. Since then, many years have flowed past, my obsession grew. From the vinyl albums to tapes to CDs and then DVDs till I saw him in concert for the first time in 2009, at Indoor Stadium, Singapore. But today was special, as it was my long cherished dream to see him perform at the Royal Albert Hall. I had heard many eulogise the Hall’s amazing acoustics and wanted to experience it myself.
Once inside, i continued my pilgrimage in the rich wood panelled corridors of the hall lined with pictures of musical icons. There were photographs of Clapton playing with B.B. King, the Cream, The Beatles, Travelling Wilburys, The Who and many more. Considering the huge number of persons roaming the corridors with cameras, it was quiet, as people spoke in hushed tones even as they sipped their beers and ciders at the Spitfire Bar, as though inside a temple; for it was a indeed a religion for most, like me.
The first glimpse of the Concert Hall staggered me. Though i had seen it in hundreds of concert videos, the plush scarlet and gold interior with red velvet curtains, the sound proofing hanging like many splendored mushrooms from the huge atrium was breathtakingly beautiful.
The first act was Andy Fairweather Low with his band, the Low Riders. But like me, the audience too was waiting for EC. Soon the lights dimmed and Clapton took stage with his band members Paul Carrack, Steve Gadd, Chris Stainton and Nathan East. The stage glowed in the rich scarlet darkness like a jewel. The firm clear guitar notes of “Somebody’s Knocking” floated in the air and the crowd went ecstatic. The sound was amazing, much beyond my expectation. I was in heaven!
“Pretending” set the mood swinging with those lovely high notes. Clapton has been performing here for over 50 years and indeed had once remarked that playing here was like “performing in my front room.” But that took nothing away from the professionalism and magnificence of his act. He humbly thanked the audience, “Thanks for coming and glad to see you here” and went on to the next song, "Hoochie Coochie Man," the Wille Dixon cover with its bold rythmatic guitar riffs. The hall was pulsating with the music. I was musing to myself, "this man is seventy?" His stage presence filled the auditorium and movements were the same that i remembered from last time I saw him live, calm, but bold.
He allowed his very talented band members to take centrestage with Paul Carrack singing the Billy Preston (and made famous by Joe Cocker) number “You Are So Beautiful” followed by another favourite, Nathan East, with Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home”. Steve Gadd added aura with his majestic drums; so tuned to the band and Clapton that is was a pleasure to listen. Perhaps to slow down a little came the sit down / acoustic numbers. “Tears in Heaven” filling our hearts and again proving that however gifted a person is, he is vulnerable somewhere. The famous elegy on losing his only son, the lyrics were poignant evoking empathy rather than sympathy, just like the man himself. "Layla" was the acoustic version and had the entire audience clapping in time, albeit softly, rather in keeping with the royal orchestra house.
Perhaps the only change in routine was Clapton’s saying “B.B. King” many times during his passionate rendering of Little Queen of Spades in memory of the Great who passed away on 14th May 2015. He had a very special relation with B.B. King. Though Riding with the King, their first album together came in 2000, they had performed together for the first time at Cafe Au Go Go in New York City as early as 1967. Clapton was all of 22 years and a member of Cream. But, they did not record together until 1997.Clapton looked up to King and had always wanted to work with him. Being restrained by nature, calling out his name in a song, was a fitting tribute.
Cocaine evoked nostalgic memories and soon Clapton came back for encore joined by Andy Fairweather Low with “High Time We Went.” And then it was curtain call. A little misty eyed and feeling heady with music we stepped out in the cold. The audience members filed out, some of them on the right side of 70 years, like Clapton, and like the very old man, to whom my friend had jokingly asked directions to get to the Hall. He simply got up and said, I am going there too. Speaking for me, I was privileged to have heard him, and wish I can see him again. Keep making the music, God. Let it Grow.